Tiger Woods’ influence on Will Zalatoris’ comeback at The Masters, unveiled

One year ago to the day, Will Zalatoris underwent a microdiscectomy to repair a herniated disc in his back.

But what made matters worse for Zalatoris was that his operation came on the same day as the third round of the 2023 Masters Tournament.

This year, however, Zalatoris, with a healthy back, played the back nine at Augusta National alongside Tiger Woods early Monday morning.

“[Tiger] has really helped me a lot with the rehab of coming back from my surgery,” Zalatoris explained Monday.

“So it’s always special to be here, but obviously, given the last year that I’ve had, today was a very special day.”

Will Zalatoris, The Masters

Will Zalatoris hits a shot from the 12th tee during a practice round ahead of the 2024 Masters.
Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

Zalatoris felt something pop on the driving range about 20 minutes before his first-round tee time. He knew something was wrong, so he had to withdraw.

Less than forty-eight hours later, Zalatoris had the operation, performed by the same surgeon who performed a microdiscectomy on Woods in 2015.

In the following months, Woods provided Zalatoris with valuable support, often reaching out to see how the 26-year-old was handling his recovery.

“It was more of ‘Hey, how you feeling? You feel this? You feel that?’ The patience game is really hard,” Zalatoris explained.

“He had gone through way more than what I had gone through. Having the same surgeons, kind of the same team, you know, just having the conversation of, ‘Hey, after this amount of time, how do you feel? After this amount of time how do you feel?’”

Woods and Zalatoris then crossed paths at a charity event in October, roughly six months after the conclusion of The Masters—and Zalatoris’ operation.

Tiger Woods, Will Zalatoris, The Masters

Tiger Woods and Will Zalatoris during Monday’s practice round before the 2024 Masters.
Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

“I spent some time with him on the range there, and I wasn’t up to hitting more than irons, I guess,” Zalatoris added.

“Talked to him a little bit about my golf swing. At the time, I still had some residuals, but really, after about seven months, I felt literally 100%. So it’s just been a lot of understanding the process and realizing that even if a doctor tells you 12 weeks, we’re trying to win and compete at the highest level; it’s technically longer.”

Zalatoris then returned to competitive play at the Hero World Challenge, which marked Woods’ professional return to golf, too.

The 15-time major champion also withdrew from The Masters in 2023, citing an ankle and foot injury after the third round.

But now Woods is back and looking healthy.

He played great today. He outdrove me a couple of times, so there was some chirping going on. So, you know, he looks great. He’s moving as well as he can be,” Zalatoris said of Woods.

“With everything he’s gone through, it’s pretty amazing to see how good he’s swinging it.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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